In yet another proof of the widely acknowledged assessment that both India and Pakistan would have suffered huge irreparable losses during the 1999 Kargil War, a former top White House official has now claimed that Islamabad even thought of taking the extreme step of using nuclear weapons against New Delhi when its Army was facing heavy causalities at the hands of Indian Army.
Reports on Thursday said that during the peak of the 1999 Kargil War, the Pakistan Army had suffered huge reverses, which forced the political establishment in Islamabad to consider use of nuclear weapons to change the course of the ongoing war between the two sides.
The CIA had warned then President Bill Clinton that Pakistan was preparing its nuclear weapons for deployment and possible use, Bruce Riedel, who worked at the time in the National Security Council of the White House, has revealed.
The CIA’s assessment formed part of the daily top secret classified briefing for Clinton on July 4, 1999 when the President was scheduled to meet the visiting Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Facing global humiliation and the prospect of an imminent defeat because of the misadventure of his Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf, Sharif had rushed to Washington seeking Clinton’s help in ending the war.
“The morning of the Fourth (of July, 1999), the CIA wrote in its top-secret Daily Brief that Pakistan was preparing its nuclear weapons for deployment and possible use. The intelligence was very compelling. The mood in the Oval Office was grim,” Bruce Riedel, who was among the few present at the Clinton-Sharif meeting, claimed.
Riedel, a former CIA analyst and now working at the Brookings Institution made the revelations in an obituary he wrote for Sandy Berger, former National Security Advisor to Clinton, who died of cancer on Monday.
“Berger urged Clinton to hear out Sharif, but to be firm. Pakistan started this crisis and it must end it without any compensation. The President needed to make clear to the Prime Minister that only a Pakistani withdrawal could avert further escalation,” he wrote.
“Sandy knew Clinton better than anyone, his natural inclination was to find a deal. This time, no deal was possible, it must be an unequivocal Pakistani climbdown,” Riedel said.
“It worked. Sharif agreed to pull back his troops. It later cost him his job: The Army ousted him in a coup and he spent a decade in exile in Saudi Arabia. But the risk of a nuclear exchange in South Asia was averted,” Riedel wrote.
Further proving this point, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian Taylor Branch also wrote in his 700-page book that Bill Clinton was seriously alarmed by ‘zealots’ in India and Pakistan who briefed him about their preparedness to ‘annihilate each other’.
Clinton believed that Kargil was a close call, Branch had claimed in a new book based on secretly-taped conversations with him.
The Indian view was that in the event of a nuclear war it could emerge the ultimate ‘winner’ after wiping off Pakistan but lose up to 500 million of its own people, Branch had claimed in his 700-page book ‘The Clinton Tapes: Wrestling History with the President’.